Berks Jazz Fest 2009: Berks All-Star Jazz Jam

Text: Peter B�hi and Beverly Packard
Photo: Michael C. Packard

Late thursday night at the Plaza Crowne Hotel Ballroom, one of the greatest jazz-extravaganzas known in the scene took place in the form of the Berks All-Star Jazz Jam. Under the musical guidance of guitarist Chuck Loeb, an incredible number of artists gathered on the stage to jam. There was Dave Weckl on drums, two bass players (Brian Bromberg and Gerald Veasley), four guitar players (Chieli Minucci, Paul Jackson Jr., Chuck Loeb and Matt Marshak), six saxophonists (Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole, Kim Waters, Nelson Rangell, Richard Elliot and Eric Darius), two trumpet/flugelhorn players (Rick Braun and Leon Jordan Jr.) and two keyboard/organ players (Bobby Lyle and Mitch Foreman). For the first song, they all crammed the stage performing Charlie Parker's "Now's The Time" with alternating solos by several of the players, before the band split up into smaller group allowing the individual players to shine. Next was Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower", featuring Jeff Kashiwa on soprano and the incredible Leon Jordan Jr. on the flugelhorn who delivered a extensive, quite capable solo, while Brian Bromberg played a fine acoustic bass solo. Next was a funked and sped-up version of Miles Davis' "So What" that gave Gerald Veasley, Richard Elliot, Matt Marshak and Leon Jordan Jr. ample solo space. This was followed by "On Broadway", and this version was turned into a guitar frenzy by Chuck Loeb, Paul Jackson Jr. and Chieli Minucci (who toured together as Guitarzzz in the past), cranking up their guitars and jamming like crazy. The show slowed down for a while with Nelson Rangell whistling and playing the piccolo, before the speed picked up with Herbie Hancock's "Canteloupe Island" extending the band again. They wrapped up the show with all involved with Stevie Wonder's "I Wish", which brought another great concert to an end. Once again, Chuck Loeb realized his vision of what so many talented players could bring to surely the most regularly-attended show of the entire festival.